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Perfecting the idiotic art of sabotaging your country

Sometimes, some countries develop an incredible knack to shoot themselves in the foot in ways that leave an observer befuddled. Take, for instance, Scotland. In…

Sometimes, some countries develop an incredible knack to shoot themselves in the foot in ways that leave an observer befuddled.

Take, for instance, Scotland. In 1348 Scotland watched as their neighbour and old enemy, England, was struck by the pandemic that was known by the ominous name the Black Death— so named because the fingers, toes and noses of the afflicted blackened, grew gangrenous as the tissues died, long before the owners did. The English died in dozens. Corpses were pushed around English towns in carts and piled up on street corners.

By 1349, seeing how weakened England had become from the plague, Scotland could not resist the urge to invade their old enemies, launching a daring raid from the north and pushing deep into the stricken country. Eventually, the English rallied and the Scots were pushed back. But the worst thing that happened was that the beaten Scots left England with the disease, returned to their country, spread it and caused the death of a third of the country’s population at the time.

Nigeria’s history is replete with instances the country and its citizens sabotaged themselves in often spectacular fashions, much like the Scots did. A recent example is detailed in the ‘Auditor-General of the Federation’s Annual Report on Non-Compliance/Internal Control Weaknesses Issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the Year Ended December 31, 2019.’

Published on January 3, this year, the report, among other things, suggests that the Nigeria Police Force could not account for 178,459 firearms. This includes some 88,078 AK-47 rifles.

Nigerians have seen these missing firearms before, often slung across the shoulders of militants, bandits and terrorists, or pointing down at those who have been unlucky to fall victims to their menace.

With these weapons finding their way into the arms of these criminals from state armoury, we wonder how the security situation in the country got so bad.

Authorities have often blamed the collapse of security in Libya and the fall of Gaddafi for the insecurity in the country. The rationale that arms from Libya have flooded Nigeria may be true to some extent, but in reality, how often have we seen these weapons from Libya in the hands of arrested bandits or recovered by the military in their operations. Every time the army or police display weapons recovered from criminals, these weapons often bear a striking resemblance to the ones drawn from the military or police armoury. The sophisticated ones from Libya are nowhere to be seen.

The tradition of police officers loaning out their weapons to shady characters for their criminal operations have been well reported over the years.

The auditor-general’s report might have indicted the police force as a whole, but the problem transcends the police. As much as Libya has been blamed for providing Boko Haram with an armoury, what has been established is that Boko Haram built its armoury from successful raids on military formations and seizure of military weapons in battles.

While that could be blamed on incompetence, the misfortune of war or other such justification, what cannot be denied is the wilful role of some senior military officers in arming militants and insurgent groups in the country.

A 2007 report by the Nigerian Army Intelligence Corps (NAIC) was leaked to the media in 2010. It was titled “Investigation Report into the Theft and Sale of Arms to Niger Delta Gunrunner by an Officer and Some Soldiers of the 1 Base Ordnance Depot Kaduna.”

The report detailed the flow of weapons from the armoury of the Nigerian army in Kaduna and Jaji to Niger Delta militants. The 35-page report indicted the then Chief of Army Staff, General Andrew Azazi as being directly involved in the theft and sale of weapons to militants, an operation that the report said was sponsored by two sitting governors at the time, James Ibori of Delta State and DSP Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State. Although the report did not mention Goodluck Jonathan, who at the time was already vice president, it indicated that payments for the weapons deals continued well into his administration as governor of Bayelsa State.

With President Umaru Yar’adua too sick to act, between the Army, the Army Intelligence Corps, Nigerian magic happened to the report. Yar’adua died and when Jonathan became president, he appointed Azazi as his National Security Adviser, despite being indicted in that report.

Naturally, when Boko Haram reared its head, it was not surprising that senior army officers decided to cash in. In 2014, about 10 generals and five other officers were arrested for selling weapons to Boko Haram. Two years later, the military confirmed that 16 officers were facing court-martial for colluding with Boko Haram.

There are many instances in which security personnel have armed and equipped the enemy for personal gains, and sat back to watch these enemies grow in might and menace that they can no longer control them.

Because there will always be profiteers in war, those who would rather sell out their country for a quick profit, such deviant behaviours are to be expected in times of crisis. What should not be expected or condoned is the cover-up that allowed indicted officers to go scot-free, and some of them were rewarded with sensitive national appointments.

Today the military is overstretched, fighting enemies they had themselves helped create and the police, well, those ones are overwhelmed trying to secure the lives of some 200 million Nigerians while losing 178,459 firearms, which is about half the size of the police population, which have gone to feed the flames of insecurity in the country.

Now that these monsters, nursed on the milk of our national resources, have our civilian populace pinned down and our security forces kept at arm’s length, mauling, devouring and demolishing, perhaps it is time for lessons to be learnt.

As the Scots learnt, sometimes trying to make light work of the enemy, to profit from either their misfortune or naivety often comes at a cost. The officers who thought they could profit from the gullibility of bandits and early-day Boko Haram have now discovered that once you feed a monster with a pint of milk, it grows to bite off your arm.

It is a national tragedy that the NAIC report on the Niger Delta arms trade was buried. It would be an even greater tragedy if the Auditor General’s report is discarded. If Nigeria is serious about its national security, it must do due diligence and ensure that those it trusts to protect Nigerians with weapons procured with taxpayers’ money do not end up selling the weapons to the country’s enemies.

The rehabilitation of the police is long overdue. Building on these faulty foundations, in which a professional police force loses 178,459 firearms as if they are broken beads in the market square will spell disaster going forward. If this government is serious about tackling insecurity, it would start with doing due diligence on this report. How did these weapons get missing? Who was responsible and how do we make sure this never happens again?

The continued liaison between Nigerian security forces and the bandits that results in weapons from the government armoury ending up in the hands of criminals is as dangerous and foolhardy as invading a country in a plague and expecting to remain unaffected. It doesn’t happen that way.

This article was first published on January 6, 2022

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